Our annual Christmas break (12/24 to 1/3, back to normal posting on 1/4) is in full swing, so while we’re off shagging dwarves spending quality time with our favorite liquors families, we’re serving up the best of the nearly 300 articles we wrote in 2009.

Whether you’ve been reading the Stew since we launched in May 2008 or just discovered us yesterday, there is a LOT of GMing material here (I believe the correct term is “a metric shit-ton”). Eighteen months in, I’m still floored by how much the gang has written.

Like last year, we wanted to take the opportunity to shine a spotlight on some of our favorite articles — specifically, three from each gnome, for a total of 27. From today through the end of the year, you can look forward to five articles like this one, two articles from Patrick, and my usual State of the Stew summary.

Merry Christmas, Feliz Navidad, and a very happy New Year from us gnomes!

Walt Ciechanowski

1. Batting .300: I think it’s important not to equate your “finishing” track record with how well you GM. Roleplaying is a hobby and many factors can lead to the abandonment of a particular campaign. I’ve noticed that finishing a campaign has little to no impact where fond gaming memories are concerned.

2. What Type of GM Are You?: This was a fun exercise! While no list will ever cover every GM, I think it’s useful for a GM to realize which category she tends to fall into when planning and running campaigns.

3. Getting Back on Course: I’ve had many enjoyable campaigns that morphed into something different and not as successful. I used this method to steer my 80s campaign back on track, and it worked well. If nothing else, Kurt got me playing the Axel F theme every session…

John Arcadian

1. Will Tabletop Roleplaying Survive?: The digital age has brought us a lot of fun toys and new ways to do things. It has brought us new ways to distribute gaming materials and new ways to publish products. It has also brought us an addiction to MMO games and new ways to integrate computers into our games What is tabletop roleplaying going to look like in the future? Will it resemble the gaming that we do today in any way, shape, or form?

2. Island Design Theory: There are a lot of different styles of Improvisational Game Mastering and a lot of different names for it. This style is my favorite, and not just because it is my modest contribution to Game Mastering Theory. Island Design Theory envisions all the elements of the game as islands in an ocean. The Game Master moves them around as needed and reacts to the players actions, as opposed to guiding the players to the predestined areas.

3. Building a Game/Campaign Is Like Building A computer: Analogies help us think about our games in a different way. Since many Role-playing Game geeks are also computer geeks, this analogy fits well. While it doesn’t always fit exactly (like a Socket A CPU with a ZIF connector), it takes a lot of common gaming elements and helps us visualize them in a new way.